MIAMI – Ford announced fuel economy is now a primary factor in vehicle purchase decisions today for 40 percent of consumers. The new study by Maritz Research also found that one-third of consumers say fuel economy has the greatest impact on their next vehicle purchase.

For models sold to both the fleet and retail markets, more retail interest in fuel economy means more automaker interest in producing fuel-efficient vehicles, which is in evidence based on the types of vehicles the automakers are promoting, building, and selling.

Ford said the survey results track with Ford’s 2011 research and sales trends. First, the Maritz survey shows how fuel economy has jumped in importance in nearly all vehicle segments since 2001:

  • Fuel economy as a purchase reason for small B-sized cars like the Ford Fiesta became the top consideration in 2011, up from fourth place in 2001
  • Fuel economy as a purchase reason for small C-size cars like the Ford Focus nearly tripled in importance from 2001, going from fifth to first place this year
  • Fuel economy now ranks fifth for mid-size cars like the Ford Fusion, up from 12th place
  • Fuel economy is now among the top five most important purchase reasons for small utility vehicles like the Ford Escape, up from 16th in 2011

When it comes to actual units sold, sales of Ford’s two all-new small cars, the Focus and Fiesta, increased 34 percent year-to-date through September versus the same period a year ago, totaling 194,540.

Fusion sales totaled 19,510 vehicles last month, up 23 percent, making it a record September for Ford’s mid-size sedan. Ford said the Fusion has set monthly sales records 11 of the last 12 months. Ford added it’s on track to sell 100,000 EcoBoost V-6-powered F150s by year-end, less than a year after launch.

Ford added at the end of its news release that it will be debuting an as-yet unnamed next-generation lithium-ion-powered hybrid vehicle in 2012.